Written by Sophia Campbell, Bristol Pound Farmlink Co-ordinator
Farmlink is an initiative within the Bristol Pound that supports primary producers in and around Bristol, through increasing and strengthening direct connections between local growers and businesses that use Bristol Pounds. There is real need for this action – the ‘Who Feeds Bristol’ report collaborated by Joy Carey explicitly states that a core part of increasing Bristol’s systemic food resilience is in bringing more locally produced staple foods into the area₁. While Bristol Pounds are a structural intervention into the economy to keep money circulating in Bristol and help foster more and stronger connections between businesses and customers, Farmlink naturally extends this structural intervention and building of relationships into enhancing Bristol’s local food system.
An idea that has been brewing since before the launch of the Bristol Pound last summer, Farmlink was originally set up to give primary producers special beneficiary terms: being exempt from the exchange rate of changing £Bs (Bristol Pounds) back into sterling. Through being at the end of the supply chains, we envisaged producers potentially having the most trouble re-spending the currency. However, when the Bank of England prevented the Bristol Pound from involving the exchange rate in their systems – fearful of the ripple effect perhaps? – Farmlink changed its tune₂.
Since joining the Bristol Pound as Farmlink coordinator in September, I’ve been evolving Farmlink to focus more on broadening producer’s customer base, specifically by developing a service that works directly with Bristol-based businesses: helping them shift to more locally based producers, prioritising those using £Bs. A sort of brokering role if you like, this service is aiming to increase business opportunities for local producers through helping retail and catering managers in Bristol that don’t have the time to research local growers themselves. Part of this is working with businesses to re-spend their £Bs with their producers, to help the wider aim of increasing money circulation within Bristol. Having a profile on the Bristol Pound website provides an opportunity for producers to make visible their unique offer and the values behind their activity that can increase sales, and is often something that gets missed out.
I’m also creating case studies of ‘best practice’ of some of the local food champion businesses and growers in Bristol, to help demonstrate to other businesses the sourcing possibilities as well as helping to show the local food demand to growers.
A future aim of Farmlink is to increase the amount of Farmlink members, and therefore widening the support of primary producers in and around Bristol. A focus group on the topic of bringing more locally produced food staples into the Bristol in collaboration with Bristol Food Network is in the pipeline, a vital space for producers, businesses and consumers to directly contribute their opinions. A branch of the Good Food Charter, a platform designed to encourage the practice of good food to flourish in Bristol, is being developed specifically for producers.
Of course Farmlink can’t – and doesn’t claim to – solve Bristol’s food sustainability challenge single handedly, but there is real niche for supporting the growth of food producers via the networks and relationships encouraged by the Bristol Pound. Farmlink is a dynamic cell within the bigger body of Bristol’s exiting grassroots food sustainability movement.
If you are a local grower or know of someone who would like to find out more about Farmlink, would like to come along to our focus group, or have any comments or ideas you’d like to feed in to the development of the project, please get in touch by emailing me at Sophia@bristolpound.org or visiting www.bristolpound.org/Farmlink.
Humphry Lloyd from Edible Futures:
“It’s really welcome that the Bristol Pound is valuing producers in our city through having a specific part of the project dedicated to local growers. It is of primary importance because access to local markets for food is notoriously difficult in our current economic climate dominated by supermarkets.”
Above: Humphry in action at Edible Futures in Brislington